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Doesn’t This Just Kill The Idea That Fast Food Makes Us Porkers

It’s a standard complaint these days that eating in restaurants – OK, fast food restaurants – is what makes us the gargantuan porkers that we are. All those evil capitalists conspiring to push more calories down our throats merely for profit.

OK, well, we’ve just had a grand experiment, haven’t we? Peeps haven’t been able to queue at Maccy D’s to get their greaseburger. People have had to – and have had time to – buy actual food and then prepare it for themselves at home.

Which is something that does rather kill the case about those burgers. Because what has been happening is that we’ve been – in the absence of greaseburgers – been eating more.

No, really:

Using data on millions of food and non-alcoholic drink purchases from shops, takeaways and restaurants, the study found that the pandemic led to calories from restaurant meals falling to zero during the UK’s first national lockdown. That increased somewhat over the summer and declined again as restrictions in the hospitality sector were reintroduced in the autumn.

However, this was more than offset by a large increase in calories from takeaways, which peaked at more than double the usual levels in the UK’s second national lockdown in November 2020.

Overall, people increased their calories from raw ingredients by more than those from ready-to-eat meals and snacks and treats, with the pandemic leading to a shift in the balance of calories towards foods that required home preparation.

It’s that last paragraph that’s important. More home food preparation was being done from raw ingredients. And yet calorie consumption rose.

The report said the most plausible explanation for the sustained increase over the pandemic was higher consumption rather than changes in household composition, food waste or stocking up.

Kate Smith, an IFS associate director and an author of the research, said: “The huge changes in where people work, eat and socialise over the past year have led to a significant rise in calorie intake.

“Increases in food consumed at home more than offset drops in calories from eating out. Ninety per cent of households increased their calorie intake, with the largest rises for the wealthiest households.”

All of which gives us a lovely, really quite lovely, conclusion to come to. The government desires that we all become less porklike, that there be fewer landwhales gracing our streets. If raw food preparation at home leads to more calories being ingested then, clearly and obviously, the airwaves should be full of advertisements asking us to wobble out for a greaseburger.

The government is actually banning fast food adverts.

Amazing what actual science can do for us, isn’t it? Hypothesis, experiment, when there’s a disagreement it’s reality that wins, not the theory.

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John B
John B
2 years ago

Because… restaurant food and take-away are portion controlled, home cooked food isn’t, it is cooked/prepared in bulk and you can have ‘seconds’… no ‘seconds’ once you’ve eaten your take-away burger in a bun.

Last edited 2 years ago by John B
Craig
Craig
2 years ago
Reply to  John B

True, though my experience at home is I tend to think, “Ok, I can eat ‘x’ so I will make ‘x'” and in restaurants the portions are enormous.

Bloke in Kent
Bloke in Kent
2 years ago
Reply to  Craig

Not so much in the UK – restaurant portions tend to be carefully controlled to ensure customers order multiple courses and still have space for drinks.

Bloke in Kent
Bloke in Kent
2 years ago

I’m guessing this is a combination of stockpiling through the pandemic (wealthy households can afford to do this) and a lack of portion control at home – I would generally serve myself up at least 1.5 times as much as I get in a restaurant / takeaway!

jgh
jgh
2 years ago
Reply to  Bloke in Kent

When I used to have breakfast cereal, I’d have two “ordinary” bowls, but one day on weighing them the box claimed I was having six portions.

Mmmmm…. top of the milk with last of the cornflakes. 🙂

Spike
Spike
2 years ago

Capitalists aren’t trying to kill us but to sell us what we seem to want.

Fatty foods (and large portions) don’t make us fat, as they are offset by other decisions in the day. Fat is determined by one’s overall plan (or lack of one).

The lockdown year was miserable and overeating / overdrinking was one non-contagious bright spot.

BlokeInTejas
BlokeInTejas
2 years ago

I fear that the statistics indicate how many calories-equivalent were bought, not how many were consumed. Correlated, sure. Effects of deconds, sure. But still.

Craig
Craig
2 years ago

“The government is actually banning fast food adverts.”

Wow, that’s not to be believed.

asiaseen
asiaseen
2 years ago

Not forgetting that in lockdown mode, most people have little else to do than eat.

johnd2008
johnd2008
2 years ago

As someone who grew up in the days of food rationing, I think another factor to overeating is the cheapness and availabilty of food.There is also the work factor. Very few people now have hard physical labour as in my childhood. Look at old photos of working men and you will see no fat ones among them simply because they worked off the calories. Working class people did not eat out because they could not afford to, the only fast food available was the local chippie or maybe a pie shop.

Witchie
Witchie
2 years ago
Reply to  johnd2008

I don’t think that I ever saw a fat person in the 1950s, and the first one I saw – and only one – was in the 1960s. My old school photos show only that one. I think hers was glandular, as she could charge like a rhino on the hockey pitch!

john77
john77
2 years ago
Reply to  Witchie

There were just two fat children in my school in the 1950s, both of whom also struggled intellectually suggesting genetic misfortune, and one verging on plump because he watched TV in the evening after he went home, instead of playing soccer as the rest of us did (OK not all the girls played soccer, just some of them). I cannot remember when sweets stopped being rationed but the amount of pocket money we got acted as a rationing mechanism.
In the 1960s, a different school, there were a few fat boys but not many.

Spike
Spike
2 years ago
Reply to  johnd2008

Still another factor reducing baseline need for calories, which Tim often mentions, is that few people these days ever shiver inside their homes.

Bloke on M4
Bloke on M4
2 years ago
Reply to  johnd2008

And travel. People rode bikes to work. Even just taking the bus means some walking to and from the stops.

Charles
Charles
2 years ago

The press release which was the basis for the Guardian article is at https://ifs.org.uk/publications/15504 and you can get the research paper itself from that page. They seem to be very keen on percentages, which makes it difficult to compare one graph against another.

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
2 years ago

Boris leading from the front again. He had to have his shower curtain let out.

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